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Scripture reading – Leviticus 11-12

* The Scripture reading before today’s devotional was Leviticus 10-11. I limited the focus of that devotion to Leviticus 10. This devotional commentary will consider Leviticus 11 and Leviticus 12.

Leviticus 11

The Distinction Between Clean and Unclean Meats (Leviticus 11:1-43)

Leviticus 11 distinguished between the meats the LORD deemed clean and consumable, and the unclean He commanded were unfit for consumption. He therefore, instructed Moses and Aaron regarding the beasts the children of Israel could eat and those they were forbidden to eat (Leviticus 11)

While the heathen would eat all manner of flesh, the children of Israel were to limit their diet to what the LORD judged were clean: Large beasts that were “clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud” (11:3), and therefore included the ox (i.e., cattle), sheep, goat, and deer (Deuteronomy 14:4,5).

There were beasts the LORD described as unclean and did not “chew the cud.” Others did not “divide the hoof (11:4-8). Examples of forbidden beasts were the camel (11:4), “the coney” (believed to be a rock badger, 11:5), “the hare” (similar to a rabbit, 11:6) and “the swine (pig or boar), though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you” (11:7).

Fish with fins and scales were permitted for consumption (11:9); however, any creature of the water that lacked fins and scales was considered “an abomination” and not allowed (11:11-12).

The Hebrew word “fowl” (11:13, 20) described anything winged that flew. Notice there were numerous predatory fowl and scavengers of carrion (vultures) labeled unclean and forbidden for ingesting (11:13-19). Leviticus 11:20described “fowls that creep, going upon all four,” believed to reference winged insects (flies, wasps, and bees).

Some swarming winged insects were permitted in the Hebrew diet, and they are described as “every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth” (11:21). These insects have jointed legs, and their larger hind legs allow them to leap. Among those that may be eaten were locusts, beetles, and grasshoppers (11:22-24).

All beasts, clean or unclean, that died as the course of nature or by violence were not to be eaten (11:24-25). So also, horses, asses, dogs, and all other beasts with paws (lions, tigers) were deemed unclean and were not to be consumed. Touching them would make one unclean (11:26-28).

Other animals labeled as “creeping things that creep upon the earth” and were forbidden for human consumption were “the weasel, and the mouse, and the tortoise after his kind, 30And the ferret, and the chameleon, and the lizard, and the snail, and the mole” (11:29-30).

Kitchen vessels (i.e., pots and pans) that came in contact with unclean animals were declared unclean (11:32-36). Vessels of wood, raiment, or skin that came in contact with unclean animals were to be cleaned in water and not used until even (11:32). Vessels of clay that came in contact with unclean beasts, were to be broken and discarded (11:35). Snakes that slithered on their belly were unclean (11:41-43).

Why such attention to dietary restrictions? (Leviticus 11:44-45)

Several reasons could be cited for the LORD’s declaration and distinction between clean and unclean beasts. Before men could peer through microscopes and see the prevalence of the dangerous bacterium in meats, the Creator knew those meats that were harmful to man. To prevent the consumption of meats that caused illness, disease, and death, the LORD declared them unclean.

The LORD, who is Himself holy, commanded His people: “sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 45For I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (11:44-45).

Leviticus 12

The Purification of Women (Leviticus 12:1-8)

Leviticus 12 moved the focus from unclean beasts to unclean persons and instructed women regarding ceremonial purification following childbirth (12:1-8).

A woman who had given birth was considered unclean and was to be separated from the sanctuary until her days of purification were passed (12:1-2). For example, a woman who gave birth to a son was deemed “unclean” for seven days. During that time, she and her son would be separated from the family (12:2c). On the eighth day; she would take her son to the priest to be circumcised (12:3). Her days of purification were numbered thirty-three days, during which time she remained at home (12:4). A woman who gave birth to a daughter (12:5), was separated from her family, and considered unclean for two weeks. She remained at home for sixty-six days for her purification.

When a mother’s days of purification and isolation were fulfilled, she came to the sanctuary and, depending upon her means, brought either “a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest” (12:6).

The sin offering was a confession of her unworthiness, the burnt offering her sacrifice of gratitude and thanksgiving, acknowledging God’s mercies in bringing her through the pangs of childbirth (12:7-8).

Questions to Consider:

1) What were the physical characteristics of animals Israel was permitted to eat? (Leviticus 11:3)

2) What were some animals Israel was forbidden to eat? (Leviticus 11:4-8)

3) What were the birds that Israel was not to eat? (Leviticus 11:13-19)

4) What were Israelite women to do after giving birth to a son or daughter? (Leviticus 12:2-5)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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